Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2011
This book required two listenings for me; not that it is that difficult a book, just that I needed two tries to get myself plugged in to the literary and media gestalt that is audiobook listening. On the first pass I was evaluating it only on the level of the cool lingo and techno-noir dialog. Gibson’s terminology is so ripe that I wish I had a glossary to help me remember it all. If I could talk like his characters do I might even be cool. This is the way I first appraised it reading the paperback version years ago, and this is the only memory I had about the book. For me this book was seen as a sort of prose poem, the words were the thing. I just let them wash over my mind like a babbling brook over a moss covered rock. I never concerned myself with the story. It is the same way I engage with the movie Blade Runner: the visuals and the milieu are so convincing that I don’t mind that the story is thin. This was a mistake, for as cool as Gibson’s lingo is there is a story here. And, as I am intent on listening to the two sequels immediately after this, COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE, maybe, I thought, paying attention to what is going on in the first novel will enhance my enjoyment of the other books in the Sprawl series.
It helps me to know that this is William Gibson’s first book. That explains some of the passages where the action is hard to follow and the characters not fully realized. It does not help me to understand how Gibson could conjure up such a holographic vision of the future. I always hate it when outsiders, looking into the realm of Science Fiction, keep a scorecard on the prognostications made by various writers, as if that was the purpose of writing SF: to predict the future. Sure Gibson manages to foresee the coming internet computer age. It was predictable; many others have done the same. No, Gibson’s contribution is in melding the obvious computer age with cool techno-crime operators and the noir street sub-culture, and giving the resulting mélange a vocabulary that at once defines the culture and allows no room to question its validity. Gibson’s cyber-land has many of the technological advances we are now experiencing, but our world is nothing like the Sprawl. In NEUROMANCER we are presented with the gritty underbelly of the clean-room silicon-enabled technological culture that sometimes seems indistinguishable from magic. The Sprawl is populated with the criminal element that naturally would opportunistically arise to take advantage of the weak links in the system. Organized crime is fascinating if for nothing else its ability to capitalize on the weakness in any system. That, I believe, is Gibson’s great contribution to SF. He has extrapolated the advances technology would make like any good SF writer, then layered that future with a culture that is nothing like the modern actual cyber-culture, but one that seems far more interesting and strange while all the while maintaining a sense of inevitability, almost as if it were a sort of alternate parallel universe. If this is his first book, let’s discover how much clearer his vision has improved in his subsequent works.
The main reason I decided to listen to NEUROMANCER is that the two sequels are narrated by one of my favorites, Jonathan Davis and I wanted to review the first before tackling the others, having read it nearly twenty-five years ago. Robertson Dean’s reading of NEUROMANCER is conducive to appreciating the beautiful cyber-space prose in this novel. He has a wonderful somnambulistic voice; deeply intoned and well articulated, but with scant variation between the different characters. The female characters are particularly hard to make out sometimes. When this happens I know that I have not managed to fully see through the narrator and get inside the text. That is another reason I first approached this book on only the word level. His is not the most emotional rendering, but then the emotions of the book are below the surface level as well, so it is appropriate. On the second listening I decided to pay closer attention and extract all that I could from Dean’s voice. I still found myself drifting away from the plot unless I was able to focus on the story. But I did enjoy the second pass more than the first. Robertson Dean reminds me of another similar narrator, John Lee, who has a voice that I find so soothing that I tend to tune out the actual words and need to make an extra effort to stay tuned into the story. This audiobook can be experienced on purely the word level, but do strive to stay engaged to the plot; there’s a story in there somewhere.
This presentation features an introduction by William Gibson written in 2004, and an excellent afterward titled “Some Dark Holler” by Jack Womack. Both help give historical context to this very influential novel.
Richard Morgan’s third entry into the fantasy genre again downplays the explicit scenes that were so prominent in the first book. I am trying to be discrete here. It is evident that there has been a conscious decision to be a little less in-your-face on such gratuitous scenes at the end of this series. Here the events of the trilogy are allowed to unfold without too much of the rainbow desensitization techniques he employed so copiously in the first installment—and for this I am grateful. What we are left with is a quite mundane sword-and-sorcery novel. The three main characters are back again and live up to their nicknames in every sense. It is fun to see them in action. And nobody does action better than Morgan.
At the end of the day I think that I failed to fully engage with this series because of the aforementioned salacious elements and so have not really much cared what happens to the characters. There is a dearth of redeeming social value here. As a result I just let the audio play out and tried to follow the plot, which at times was difficult because the action seems focused more on the grubby details of mercenary life than it does on the grander story arc with the fate of the world at stake. This is not, therefore, an epic fantasy by any means. The unfolding Duenda war feels like little more than a manufactured crisis to allow the characters to misbehave. Alfred Hitchcock would call this the MacGuffin—the thing the characters in the story care about who facilitate the action that the audience cares about. The characters want to save the world and we in the audience want to witness them hacking and slashing their way to victory. So, while this series may have broken ground in introducing the genre to a sympathetic portrayal of an openly gay main character, it is pretty standard Sword and Sorcery fare otherwise. Knowing the dizzying heights that Richard Morgan is capable of hitting in his Science Fiction novels, this is a bit of a letdown.
Simon Vance is a little too subdued for my tastes in his reading of this book. With such flamboyant characters the story would have been better served with a more emotional rendering in the dialog scenes. Vance is excellent in translating the words on the page into sounds in your ear. For the most part he is unobtrusive and this makes it possible for him to become the sub-vocal voice-in-your-head that every reader experiences when reading a book on your own.
Now twenty years after WARBOUND we learn, in passing, what Francis and Fae are up to. The son of Jake and Origami joins forces with the Imperium to defeat a foe that could threaten the world if not stopped on the Island. Knowing that Larry Correia is still playing in the Grimnoir world leaves hope for a follow-up novel in the future. This little teaser makes me want more.
Bronson Pinchot is top-notch as usual.
This is a fine short story set four years after the events in WARBOUND. It was great to keep up with Jake Sullivan and the Alienist. The real joy was hearing Bronson Pinchot exercise his talents again.
Back in the day I read the original DUNE and then followed with DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN OF DUNE, but then I stopped because I didn't like the direction the series was going. Over the intervening years I kept hearing high praise for the rest of the series. I just wasn't motivated enough to undertake reading all six books. But now that they are available on Audio I thought I would give it a try. After all I had been richly rewarded in a similar situation involving the works of Neal Stephenson. (I had avoided The Baroque Cycle after loving Snowcrash but disliking The Diamond Age) So, in the case of the Dune novels I felt compelled to check off this nagging omission from my bucket list. I was hopefully expecting a buried treasure. Sadly, my original estimation was confirmed. The original DUNE is wonderful and inventive, fresh and new. The balance of the Dune novels are slow plodding—focused too much on fanciful, imagined philosophy. The second book, DUNE MESSIAH, reads like an outline—just advancing the plot so the third, CHILDREN OF DUNE can be told. This third book has some mildly interesting characters and promises a Space Opera scale expansion of the story for the remaining novels. The fourth, GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE, documents the tyrannical reign of human-turned-worm Leto II but does not make good use of the vast scale of a multiple-planet empire. The creepy giant larvae-like emperor, and his entire dialog, seems less then majestic or oppressive, as later recollections will portray his reign. The idea is there but the execution is lacking. The next, HERETICS OF DUNE, advances the plot but leaves much to be desired when it comes to holding my interest; which it could have done with more interesting people or with witty dialog (Again the reader is referred to The Baroque Cycle). And this last novel is no improvement. Mercifully, Frank Herbert ended his series with CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE. This last novel has the same feel as the previous two books. I did not like it. And unless someone can convince me that the other Dune books, written by Frank Herbert’s son are of a completely different quality, my exploration of Dune is at an end.
As a public service I can say that if you enjoy exploring the outlining of a future society based on treachery and long range planning—but without fleshing out the characters or establishing an engaging storyline, then the last five Dune novels may be for you. My chief complaint is that the new characters which necessarily populate the later novels are just not very interesting. I was never made to care about them and so had a hard time following their concerns.
I sympathize with the plight of the narrators. The dissertation-like nature of the text as a sociological treatise demands a slow monotone reading, and the narrators faithfully comply.
Here many of the political and religious plot lines begin to converge. Set thousands of years after the time of Paul; this novel exemplifies one of the problems of a wide scope Space Opera that extends over such vast time scales: The writer has to introduce a new set of characters for every installment. Frank Herbert strives to overcome this problem in his series by always having an Atreides in a key role. He always has a Bene Gesserit trying to pull the strings behind the scenes. And, of course, the recurring figure of Duncan Idaho again makes an appearance in one of his many clones. This novel has some interesting personalities placed in these standard roles and for this reason holds my interest better than the other sequels so far. At the end of the day, it is still a far cry from the drama of the original. By the end I was longing for a conniving villain like baron Harkonnen to add a little drama.
Simon Vance again reads the text. His delivery is uncomfortably dispassionate and leads to the depiction of strangely uncomfortable antiseptic coitus in more than one scene. This book gives me a chance to editorialize: There is something commendable in translating a book from the print to the audio format with as little deviation from the mood of the original. I would say that there is a higher commendation deserved in taking a stolid, phlegmatic novel and imparting some sense of drama to it that would make it a more entertaining listening experience.
While a necessary part of the sequence of the saga, this is the most uncharacteristic novel in the series. Clearly the figure of the God Emperor is pivotal to the development of the series, but I found this installment merely a place-holder for the era of the Tyrant. I think the account of Leto II and his millennia-long empire could have been handled better as a brief retrospective in the next novel Heretics of Dune than it was executed here as a novel-length episode of its own. Herbert fails to impart the necessary sense of vitality and irresistible power that the figure of the God Emperor holds in the story. The dialog for Leto II is so feeble and mundane that it is a wonder that such an impotent personality could wield such megalomaniac power over all of mankind on many different worlds.
Simon Vance again handles the reading. He is excellent at enunciating each word perfectly so Frank Herbert’s words come through without alteration. I would have enjoyed it more had he played Emperor Leto II with a bit of campy melodrama—it would have been so much more fun.
Here Herbert expands the scope of the story to make this a true Space Opera. This is a somewhat satisfying follow-up to the classic Dune. Here it becomes plain that he has an epic planned. He begins to lay down the political foundations for the balance of the series.
Simon Vance handles the great majority of the narration. He is a fine reader. I find that his voices for young children do not have a youthful energy. This sometimes gets in the way when I was trying to visualize a scene in my mind.
My impression of this book remains unchanged from my reading of the print version many years ago: It is just a necessary linking novel to the next volume.
Again the production is quite good, with several narrators taking the task of delivering certain sections. Simon Vance handles the bulk of the narration. And while I appreciate Vance’s obvious talents in sight reading, his limited range of characterizations sometimes causes the various characters to blend together.
I have read the print version of Dune twice in the distant past and thought it was time to revisit the story to determine if my original impressions still held. When I first read it as a young boy I thought the story very difficult to engage with but ended up enjoying it very much. Reading it a second time was a revelation; everything seemed so vivid and well-described. I remember finishing that second reading on the very day the David Lynch movie was released. I remember being enthralled at seeing the sandworms come straight out of the book and onto the big screen. I am now undertaking the task of listening to all six of Frank Herbert’s Dune books.
As of this writing I am in the middle of book six, Heretics of Dune and believe I can safely make some assessments of the first in relation to the rest. The first is still the best. In this first Dune novel Frank Herbert obviously has a real spark of genius. His original creation is so vivid, so vast that it takes on the quality of myth. I really enjoy the narrow scope of this Space Opera. This may seem like a complete non-sequitur, but hear me out! Except for the first few opening scenes all the action takes place on Arrakis. The central character Paul becomes more and more isolated; his personal domain reduced from a planet-wide Dukedom to an outcast given refuge by the Fremen. Herbert focuses on storytelling in this book, building and borrowing heavily from Sunni Islam legends of the Twelfth Imam. So the scope of this book may masquerade as a Space Opera but it is really quite narrowly focused on the central characters.
Listening to Dune was a grand experience. This is a very fine production of this classic novel. Many key scenes are given a full cast performance, which really brought the story to life. I only wish this full cast was in place for each and every scene. Simon Vance handles the balance of the text in his trade-mark perfect and clear diction.
This Great Courses presentation is very well done. Professor David Sadava knows his material inside and out. It is a joy to hear him deliver the complicated concepts that are necessary to understand even the most rudimentary ideas that relate to genetics. The very technical information in his lectures flows off his lips as easy as a Trekker would explain the reasons for his preference of Picard over Kirk. Prof. Sadava is really good at pointing out the recent discoveries in the field of DNA research that are revolutionizing our understanding of the way the human body works. Whether you are a Darwinist or a Creationist you will marvel at the incredible complexity of life that is now being revealed by modern advances in research. It is amazing what can be done with the building blocks of DNA once its structure and chemical make-up is known. We now have a herd of just eighteen cows excreting the entire world demand for Human Growth hormone in their milk. Sheep now make insulin in the protein of their milk. We now have bacteria that eat oil spills; others glow in the dark in the presence of land mines with TNT. In this course you will learn the way vaccines work—by prompting the body’s existing immune system to produce antibodies. The varied applications of genetic research is a tribute to the ingenuity of modern man.
David Sadava is a materialistic scientist, and therefore his sense of right and wrong takes on a very pragmatic nature. Moral issues are not deeply considered. He recounts dispassionately the decisions of people acting of information garnered through genetic testing with no regard to the morality of those decisions. Couples desiring healthy babies are using the information made available to us through genetic research to select for a superior human babies. Who doesn't want healthy babies? The unspoken down-side, recounted in Lecture 18, is that genetic screening leads to Jewish babies being aborted after they are discovered to be afflicted with Tay Sachs disease, or multiple embryos dying in the test-tube when their healthy sibling is inserted into the mother’s uterus. This criticism of the morality of this course does not detract from the ability of Professor Sadava to provoke one’s thoughts. On the contrary, people with deeply held moral convictions need to keep informed on the advances of genetic science. This is a stimulating and educational set of lectures that I recommend to anyone with an interest in how things work. Moralists and theologians need to listen to this course to keep abreast of the social change that is being conducted in the absence of their guidance.
The Professor ends the series with the sentence, “The genetic genie is out of the bottle.” Apparently even those closest to the scientific discipline of Genetic research realize that we have move very far very fast—so fast that the long-term consequences cannot be predicted with surety. Obviously Sadava is of the belief that the problems we may have already caused can be fixed by future scientists. I think he places too much trust in the men in The Men in the White Lab Coats. By cutting and splicing genes we are not merely dabbling with a harmless genie that has the potential to cure mankind’s problems with disease and hunger. We are like children playing in God’s toy box; breaking apart what to us looks to be just a bunch of Lego parts that can be reassembled in the way that seems right to us; when in reality we have no idea of the complex interactions we are causing to the environment and to our own bodies. We have not released a benevolent genie. We have opened Pandora’s Box.
…..Other books useful for aspiring geneticists and ethicists:
INHERITANCE by Sharon Moalem
THE SPORTS GENE by David Epstein
THE VIRAL STORM by Nathan Wolfe
THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION by Michael Behe
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